The SEC East isn't just significantly worse than the SEC West.
According to at least one ranking, the East has become the single worst in major-conference college football, behind the maligned Big Ten West and narrowly ahead of the mid-major Mountain West's top division.
The SEC East is so bad that the league could add 3-5 Notre Dame and watch its average ranking in S&P+, an opponent-adjusted advanced stat, go up.
Here's how every FBS division's average team stacks up by that metric, including the division-less Big 12, Sun Belt, and four independents:
|Average S&P+ ranking|
|Big Ten East||46|
|Big Ten West||53|
Mostly, these rankings are about what you'd expect.
They're based on play-by-play data and opponent strength, and they align pretty closely with the major human polls.
It won't surprise anyone that the Alabama-led SEC West grades out as the country's best division, just like it did last year. It also won't be a shock that the ACC Atlantic is next, with Clemson, Louisville, and Florida State all there. The Big Ten East -- with Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State -- also ranks highly despite having Rutgers and 2016's version of Michigan State.
The Pac-12's two divisions are just about equally strong this year, and on the whole, they're about equal with the Big 12. As maligned as that league is, it gets a boost from having Oklahoma, Baylor, and West Virginia in the top 25 and only having two real bottom-feeders, Iowa State and Kansas.
The best Group of 5 divisions are the Mountain West's Mountain division and the American East. S&P+ really likes Temple (ranked 33rd) and South Florida (36th), and the only AAC East team that's glaringly bad is Connecticut. The MWC Mountain has a good Boise State and no one ranked below 80th.
But, boy howdy, it's staggering how bad the SEC East is.
Not that anyone opened this post expecting the East to win some kind of medal.
Kentucky's in second place in this division, which says more about the division than it does about Kentucky. Onetime leader and national title contender Tennessee has collapsed on itself like a star. Top-10 recruiter Georgia is 4-4. Missouri isn't even a dilapidated shell of what it was a few years ago, and Vanderbilt is Vanderbilt.
So far this year, the West is 7-1 against the East, with the only win by Kentucky against Mississippi State.
Should the East lose out, including for an eighth consecutive year in the SEC title game, it would continue the trend of declining success against the West every season since expansion in 2012. That year, the East went 7-8 against the West, then 6-9 in 2013, 4-11 in 2014 and 2-13 last fall.
This is a horrifying situation. The specifics, by S&P+ rank:
The league has exactly one good team. It might have one other decent team. And then it has teams that range from standard-fare Power 5 dead weight to some of the worst in the country.
Look at Georgia, all the way at 70. The teams immediately before Georgia are Navy and Maryland. The teams immediately behind it are Wyoming and Duke.
To repeat, the SEC East is so abysmal that Notre Dame, which is 3-5 and ranked 43rd on this index, would be the third-best team in the division. That's where we are. Notre Dame would be an improvement.
The SEC East's badness is not a new thing. In a way, it's getting worse.
By average S&P+ slot, the division is incrementally better than it was last year. But it was the worst Power 5 division in 2015, too, and its gains don't hold up relative to the rest of the country's major conferences.
|Average S&P+ ranking|
|Big Ten East||40.3|
|Big Ten West||52.3|
Last year, the gulf between the East and the worst Group of 5 division, the MWC Mountain, was 12 spots in average S&P+ rating. That's significant. This year, the gap is only about five spots, with the Mountain inching closer and closer to the East. The AAC East is about six spots back. That's how bad the quality of play has been this year.
Eventually, this will get better. But that it's currently this bad is stunning.
These things are cyclical. The East used to be better than the West.
Still, the East should never be this bad.
The SEC East has a handful of the country's top recruiters. Florida and Georgia regularly recruit at a national championship level, and Tennessee hasn't been so far behind. The division's footprint includes some of the country's best recruiting areas, several of its members throw tons of money at football, and all seven teams have made fresh coaching hires in the last few years.
This is something else, though.